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Puerto Rico’s Army Terminal pier to receive $85.3M overhaul

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi announced that an agreement has been signed between the Housing Department and the Ports Authority with an $85.3 million allocation for the reconstruction of the Army Terminal pier. 

At a news conference at the Army Terminal pier, Pierluisi, accompanied by Housing Secretary William Rodríguez-Rodríguez and Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá-Batiz, announced that the project will be financed following the signing of an agreement between Housing and Ports through the Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) program.

The governor said: “Our ports are part of the critical infrastructure that is necessary for the economy and the well-being of our people. They play a fundamental role in the entry and exit of ships for trade, the receipt of key merchandise, tourism and even humanitarian aid in times of emergency. 

“Therefore, it is very important for my administration to mitigate the vulnerability of our ports, which are prone to the impact of atmospheric events and rising sea levels. As part of our efforts to provide greater resilience to our port facilities against potential future disasters, we have allocated funds from the CDBG-MIT infrastructure program to address these needs.”

The governor further noted that: “The Housing Department and the Ports Authority will be signing a subrecipient agreement to finance the Army Terminal improvement and reconstruction project, which was originally built over 80 years ago. From the design process to its construction and final delivery, it will cost $85.3 million. 

“The work aims to build a new pier and replace damages to the current port facility; mitigate the risks of future damages, including rising water levels; and strengthen the lifeline of maritime transportation by providing facilities that meet current building codes as well as industry standards.”

Meanwhile, Rodríguez-Rodríguez said the pier is essential for the island’s supply chain and disaster mitigation efforts, “which is why this project is an example of the effort to reinforce the island’s essential infrastructure.”

The reconstruction of the terminal “will significantly improve our capacity to distribute essential goods, particularly in emergency situations. We strive to rebuild in a more robust, resilient and smart manner,” the Ports director added.

The Army Terminal is owned by the Ports Authority, whose facilities, for the most part, have been closed for years. The only part in use is the area managed by Trailer Bridge, in which it invested in a ramp located directly toward the courtyard of the terminal area that allows its use without loading cargo on the dock, which is not in a usable condition. 

The pier sustained severe damage from the 2017 hurricanes, affecting its operational and structural capacity, which has limited its ability to receive materials needed for ongoing recovery projects on the island.

“At the Ports Authority, we remain committed to addressing the current and future needs of the maritime cargo industry, including the creation of more dock areas, increasing the capacity and activity of existing ones, as well as improving the supply chain and the growing demand for imports of goods and raw materials,” Pizá-Batiz said. 

“These funds will allow us, among many benefits, to strengthen the design of existing infrastructure to make it capable of withstanding physical damage due to natural hazards, including extreme weather events such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Similarly, we will be able to support the maritime transportation system and other Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) community livelihoods, including food, water and shelter, health and medicine, as well as fuel.”

Following the reconstruction, it will have a cargo pier with enough capacity to receive materials, construction equipment, machinery, large trucks and other loose and bulk cargo crucial to meeting the island’s needs. It will also provide an improved entry and exit route with greater accessibility for commercial and government entities.

Jacob Wegrzyn, Trailer Bridge’s vice president for the Caribbean, said the company is proud to serve Puerto Rico over the past 33 years. 

“Today is an exciting day as we celebrate an investment critical to the ongoing rehabilitation and growth efforts on the island, which will also maximize operational efficiency at the port and allow us to better serve the Puerto Rican community,” Wegrzyn added.

In addition to complying with the latest building codes and standards of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, the project aims to provide resilient pier infrastructure, improving access to essential services and strengthening the supply chain before and after natural disasters.

“This project is one that will benefit all our citizens, as each of us relies on merchandise that arrives through our ports,” the governor said. “The completion of the work at the Army Terminal facilities will be done in total coordination with Trailer Bridge to ensure that its operations, which are so important to Puerto Rico, are not affected. Once the work is completed, Trailer Bridge will continue with greater ease and growth potential.” 

The integration of operations of Argos Cement near the Isla Grande Airport is already being considered, Pierluisi said. “We want this maritime terminal to be able to serve with great efficiency for the use of barges and heavy cargo vessels. This will be a great legacy for the future of Puerto Rico.”

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